Victory Day in Minsk

Minsk Travel Blog

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Island of Tears monumen

May 8, 2009
Flight: Kaliningrad (KGD) to Riga (RIX), Air Baltic, F50, economy
Flight: Riga (RIX) to Minsk (MSQ), Air Baltic, F50, economy
Hotel: Hotel Yubileiny, Minsk, $67
I boarded the airBaltic Fokker 50 flight to Riga, the flight was about an hour and otherwise uneventful. By the time the flight arrived in Riga, I was starving and hoped I could find a restaurant. However the next flight to Minsk left from the gate right next to where we arrived.. it was a sterile area but no restaurants, just a vending machine that luckily took a 2E coin for a candybar.

  I had a 2hr wait before the flight to Minsk.. with nothing else to do there but sit I was able to recharge my phone and laptop.

Soon it was time to board the flight to Minsk.  This flight was also on a Fokker 50.  Boarding was via bus, then boarding the plane via its stairs.  I was seated next to an older woman and we started talking.  She was coming back from visiting her daughter in Denmark.  Also chatted with a Russian Orthodox priest sitting next to me.. his English was excellent.  They seemed surprised I would be coming to Belarus as a tourist.  I said I was there to see the Victory Day celebrations.  Belarus is definitely off the usual tourist trail... although it became independent country when the Soviet Union dissolved, it is still very much in that communist mindset.
Victory Day parade, Minsk,Belarus
  On the surface everything is clean and neat and organized, but it is still very much a paranoid police state with half of the population reporting on the other half.  There were student protests that were put down several years ago that didn't get much mention in the Western news.  That being said I did enjoy my visit to Belarus, and it was a highlight of my trip.

The flight arrived on time at the space-age looking Minsk-2 airport.  The visa-on-arrival desk was upstairs just before the immigration desks.  There were a few people in front of me so it still took about a half hour to process; by the time I came down to the immigration counter I was the last one through.  The foreign exchange counters had conveniently closed 5 minutes after our flight had arrived; all I had was Euros and Russian rubles.
  There was a bus waiting to leave into town but he wouldn't take either currency.  I ended up having to take a taxi (30E) into town.. the airport is built way out in the middle of nowhere nearly 40 minutes from the city.  

It was just getting dark, but from what I could see it was a very clean, green country, rolling hills and fields along the brand new multi-lane expressway.  The 8-lane wide praspekt Nezalezhnatsi leads from outside of town right to the center, past the oddly angular-shaped National Library.  Along this road were lots of new looking apartments and shops, looks very prosperous.  Minsk was heavily damaged during WWII as well, most of the city has been rebuilt since then.  Stalin wanted it to be a showplace city.  Very little traffic but it was 9:30PM on a Friday evening.
  Coming further into town, there were colored lights strung out across the road, I guessed they had been put up for the Victory day celebrations.  We passed by the Oktyabraskaya plaza, there were lots of young people sitting here and walking around.  There were huge banners covered in stars proclaiming victory 1945-2009.  The taxi continued a little further to the Yubileiny hotel where I was staying.  This hotel was on the riverbank near the sports complex.  The taxi driver wanted paid in local currency so went inside the hotel where there was an exchange bureau right next to the casino (all hotels in Minsk have a casino apparently).  The hotel was nice and clean, older Soviet style hotel.  The room while small was comfortable and I had a good view out from the 11th floor.
Minsk fireworks


It was about 10PM now but still had energy and decided to head out and explore a bit.  Along the river banks were hundreds of young people, just sitting around chatting with friends and drinking lots of booze.  It was quite a nice walk along the river, the sidewalks on both sides and people everywhere!  The nearby sports complex had an ice rink setup.  The air was cool and I liked the atmosphere of the place.  I walked all the way along the river back to the main square.  Coming back to the hotel I stopped in the grocery store nearby to buy some cookies and a soda.. it was 11PM and filled with people, most of them buying liter bottles of beer.  Two young guys snuck past me in the checkout line.. I saw them shoplifting a couple bottles!

hauteboy says:
It was pretty simple process. I did have to pre-arrange the visa beforehand through the travel agent. Google Belarus visa support. I sent them my passport details, they emailed me the hotel voucher and visa confirmation, then I picked up the visa on arrival at the airport and paid the 50EUR fee.
I used: http://www.select-a-room.com/hotels/belarus/minsk?search-tab=visasupport

However it looks like the fees for Visa on arrival for individual tourist visas are now insanely expensive for US/UK passports ($393 and $342 respectively).
Posted on: Jan 25, 2011
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Island of Tears monumen
Island of Tears monumen
Victory Day parade, Minsk,Belarus
Victory Day parade, Minsk,Belarus
Minsk fireworks
Minsk fireworks
Island of Tears monument (Afghan w…
Island of Tears monument (Afghan …
TGI Fridays
TGI Fridays
Minsk fireworks
Minsk fireworks
Belarus rubles
Belarus rubles
Belarus rubles
Belarus rubles
Belarus visa
Belarus visa
Minsk Hotels & Accommodations review
Ok choice for Minsk
Spent two nights at the Yubileiny hotel in Minsk. I had pre-booked my hotel and visa through a travel agent, the room was $60 a night for a basic sin… read entire review
Minsk
photo by: formicacuriosa